Petition on abuse in Virginia prisons

by Kelvin ‘Khaysi’ Canada

Note: For reasons of space, approximately 80 percent of the original 11,000-word text has had to be cut. This includes most of the examples given, plus, among other things, 1) a long section about how a “step-down” program, supposedly meant to give prisoners an opportunity to upgrade their conditions, is unfairly applied so as to keep them from benefiting, and 2) the names and ID numbers of 74 Virginia prisoners who endorsed the petition. An electronic file of the unabridged text – 27 single-spaced pages – can be obtained by writing to

Re: Readdressing unresolved complaints of:

  1. Sadistic abuse and misuse of ambulatory restraints.
  2. Constant vindictive and retaliatory cancellation of Seg prisoners’ recreation and showers.
  3. Constant vindictive and retaliatory refusal to feed Seg prisoners their meals.
  4. Sadistic and malicious abuse and misuse of the electronic stun belt, OC gas and K9 dogs.
  5. Constant sadistic abuse and misuse of strip-cell.
  6. Constant beatings and/or torture of prisoners while they are fully restrained in ambulatory restraints or five-point restraints strapped to a bed.
  7. The unconstitutional enforcement and abuse of the LOP 830.A policy and the challenge series Intensive Management (IM) and Secure Management (SM) program.
  8. Constant destruction, damage and theft of prisoners’ property and hygiene items.

To: Prison officials, warden, elected officials, Western Regional Director, Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke, Chief of Operations David Robinson and the general public

Red-Onion-State-Prison-Wise-County-Va-300x178, Petition on abuse in Virginia prisons, Abolition Now!
Red Onion State Prison in rural Virginia sits in the barren crater of a formerly lush green mountain whose top was blown off to remove the coal that used to be mined the old-fashioned way. Built in 1998, it’s the new economic development model for Appalachia: mountaintop removal covered by prisons and Wal-Marts, now the only job options for out-of-work miners and their families.

On Aug. 26, 2013, I wrote a very detailed petition to Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke and Chief of Operations David Robinson after having a face-to-face confabulation with these head prison officials on Aug. 22, 2013, while I was housed in C5, Cell 513. They both instructed me to write them about these issues.

I am very abreast of the protocol regarding prison officials saying one thing when they do their rare pilgrimage through Virginia prisons and doing another once they return to the comfort of their offices in Richmond. So I wasn’t aghast, that after two-plus years, none of these essential issues have been resolved. In many instances these practices have become worse.

When I sent this petition to Clarke and Robinson, they both delegated it to Melissa Welch from the Correspondence Unit, who is not at all qualified and does not have the authority to address or resolve any of these complaints. When she did respond on Sept. 17, 2013, she dismissively stated:

“Grievances are to be submitted by individuals. Group complaint(s) or petitions are not permitted. As you are aware, you may utilize OP 861.1, Offender Grievance Procedure, to address concerns that personally affect you.”

I rebutted Melissa Welch’s dismissive response by writing a rebuttal petition on Sept. 30, 2013, to inform her that “had she read my petition, she would have seen that these issues had in fact been grieved via OP 861.1” to no avail.

At no time did Harold Clarke or David Robinson ever respond to this 2013 petition that they instructed me to write, and at no time did they resolve any of the issues inscribed in it.

Unresolved complaints lead to unresolved results. I will now demonstrate this by providing dates, prisoners’ names, officers’ names, and in many instances the time of a multitude of complaints and incidents that still systematically subsist here at Red Onion State Prison that are being condoned via nepotism.

Systematic abuse of recreation and showers on segregation

  1. On Sept. 11, 2015, Officer A. Mullins and Officer Brock cancelled prisoner T. Harvey’s shower in C2, Cell 215, for no reason.
  2. On Sept. 13, 2015, Officers A. Mullins, Taylor and Brock cancelled prisoner R. Arrington’s shower in C2, Cell 216. This prisoner never goes to rec of his own volition but always goes to the shower.
  3. Prisoner Tim Williams, #1473068, who is housed in B3, Cell 303, has constantly had his showers and recreation cancelled by B-Break Morning Officers Robert Gibson and Michael Addington, Sgt. Jordan Hemings and Lt. Justin Kiser.

Rec cancellation is the culture in B3 Pod that unit managers and the wardens, such as former Warden Randall Mathena and current Warden Earl Barksdale, condone and accept. Out of fear of retaliation, prisoners in B3 Pod normally accept days, weeks and in some instances months of rec deprivation so as not to have their showers cancelled or food trays taken.

Some would naively ask, “Why don’t these prisoners utilize the OP 866.1 policy to file a complaint and grievance on this malfeasance?”

Red-Onion-State-Prison-Hunger-Strike-graphic-203x300, Petition on abuse in Virginia prisons, Abolition Now!
Following the December 2010 work stoppage in Georgia, a hunger strike in Ohio and the first two mass hunger strikes in California in 2011, prisoners at Red Onion went on hunger strike in 2012.

In order to use this procedure, you need an informal complaint form, which you have to get from a unit manager, lieutenant or sergeant, who commits or approves these malfeasances. So the chances of you getting a complaint form from either of these supervisors to write them up for something they know violates policy is zero.

On Oct. 6, 2015, Officers Mercer and M. Mullins from B-Break Morning Shift vindictively cancelled rec and showers for D. Osbourne C3, Cell 310, and Kelvin Canada, C2, Cell 205. Officers Mercer and Mullins came to both Canada and Osbourne’s cells and stated verbatim: “Do you want rec or shower?”

Our response was we want both rec and shower. Both Officers Mercer and Mullins replied by saying you can’t get both; you either choose one or the other. We both responded back again stating, “We want rec and shower.” That’s when Officers Mercer and Mullins cancelled our rec and shower.

Now on this particular day, I did utilize the OP 866.1 policy and filed Complaint No. ROSP-15-INF-01554, which was responded to by Sgt. T. Lange, falsely claiming that I refused my own rec and shower.

I then continued to utilize the OP 866.1 policy and filed a Level 1 Grievance No. ROSP-15-REG-00431. As expected, Warden Earl Barksdale rejected this grievance, echoing what Sgt. T. Large wrongfully contended in my Complaint No. ROSP-15-INT-01554 response that I refused my own rec and shower on Oct. 6, 2015.

[Several similar examples are given.]

Retaliatory and systematic abuse and deprivation of meals

This section consists of describing how sadistic officers use meals as a clandestine retaliatory mechanism to punish and/or retaliate against Seg prisoners. The way this malfeasance works is described below:

  1. Officers will have an empty tray and come to a prisoner’s cell and place this empty tray into the prisoner’s feeding box to simulate for the rapid eye pod camera that they are actually giving that tray with food on it when actually there is no food on the tray.
  2. An officer will be serving food trays and falsely claim that a prisoner is being disruptive or is trying to throw feces or urine on them to justify them not feeding that prisoner his meal.
  3. Officers will outright spit in a prisoner’s food tray or put something else in a food tray causing it to be inedible.

I will now give some examples.

On Sept. 28, 2015, B3 Pod Officer Lowe refused to serve prisoner Tim Williams, #1473068, in B3, Cell 303, his breakfast tray. When prisoner Williams knocked on his cell door window to inquire about his food tray being denied, he was sadistically placed in ambulatory restraints by Lt. Justin Kiser and Sgt. Jordan Flemings for hours.

The OP 861.3, Section (E) 12 states:

Subsection (A) – “Each offender in special housing should receive the same number = 3 of meals and types of meals served to general population.”

Subsection (B) – “Food may not be used as a disciplinary measure. Punitive diets i.e. bread and water for offenders are prohibited.”

Subsection (E) – “Offenders who abuse the trays or food products served to them will be managed in accordance with OP 420.2, use of restraints and management of offender behavior.”

There’s nothing in this O.P. 861.3 policy that authorizes officers to deny prisoners their meals at any time. Even if a prisoner abuses his or her tray, that prisoner is still not to be denied his or her meal.

None of these prisoners ever abused their tray or food products from their tray. Therefore under no circumstances according to the OP 861.3 12 (E) policy were their trays supposed to be denied.

Misuse of ambulatory and five-point restraints

“Ambulatory restraints” consist of a pair of handcuffs and a pair of shackles conjoined by a linked chain. When placed on a prisoner, the prisoner is denuded and placed in a “smock” which is a quilted dress-like outfit that covers a prisoner’s denuded body. Or a prisoner is denuded and left only in his boxers while in ambulatory restraints.

When a prisoner is placed in ambulatory restraints, the handcuffs are placed on the prisoner’s wrist in front. Then the shackles are placed on the prisoner’s bare ankles. The problem with this OP 420.21 policy is that officers will lie and proclaim that the prisoner is being “intractable” just to prolong a prisoner’s stay in ambulatory restraints.

CUNYs-Revolutionary-Student-Coordinating-Committee-RSCC-rallies-for-Red-Onion-hunger-strikers-052512-web-300x225, Petition on abuse in Virginia prisons, Abolition Now!
The CUNY (City University of New York) Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee rallied in support of the Red Onion hunger strikers on May 25, 2012.

“Five-point restraints” also involve a prisoner being denuded with nothing but boxers on or a quilted smock. However, instead of being placed in handcuffs, shackles and a linked chain, a prisoner is placed on a metal bed with a bare mattress and his hands are strapped to each side of the bed with either plastic straps or leather straps. The same is done to each of the prisoner’s ankles as well.

Prisoners who are in five-point restraints are often denied their mandatory four-hour restroom breaks via OP 420.2. Sergeants or lieutenants will come to a prisoner’s cell and ask that prisoner, without a camera, “Do you want to come up for your restroom break?” If the prisoner says yes, that sergeant or lieutenant will still write “Refused” on that prisoner’s Seg chart and walk away from that prisoner’s door, causing that prisoner to urinate and/or defecate on himself. Then that prisoner is left to marinate in his own urine and/or feces for hours.

The same sadistic procedure applies when it comes to feeding a prisoner in five-point restraints his mandatory meals. A sergeant or lieutenant will come to a prisoner’s door and ask him, “Do you want to come up to eat?” If the prisoner says yes, that sergeant or lieutenant will vindictively write “Refused” on that prisoner’s Seg chart and walk away from that prisoner’s door without feeding that prisoner his mandatory meals.

Typically, when a prisoner is on five-point restraints and it’s time for that prisoner’s four-hour restroom breaks or meals, a sergeant or lieutenant is supposed to bring a video camera to that prisoner’s cell door and record the prisoner’s response to the question of whether or not they want their restroom break or meals. However, this protocol is not used because it would incriminate officers who sadistically deny prisoners in five-point restraints their mandatory restroom breaks and meals.

The utilization of these restraints is sadistic and dehumanizing. It is “cruel and unusual punishment,” a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

The utilization of these restraints is sadistic and dehumanizing. It is “cruel and unusual punishment,” a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Excessive and sadistic misuse of K9 dogs

K9 dogs are supposedly intended for use at high-level prisons to discourage fights, escapes etc. Unfortunately, this is not what these K9 dogs are being used for. K9 officers use these K9 dogs to bite and attack defenseless prisoners, under the pretext of restoring order.

For example, On May 1, 2013, K9 Officer Looney at Red Onion State Prison sadistically unleashed her dog on Prisoner Gary Wall, #1133749, after a fight between Gary Wall and another prisoner was over. There was no weapon involved in this fight. However, after Gary Wall had laid on the ground as he was instructed to, the K9 officer still unleashed her dog on a defenseless non-combative Gary Wall. The outside video from D-Building captured this sadistic misuse of this K9 dog attack. Gary Wall sustained a severe lacerated calf and ankle.

K9 officers use these K9 dogs to bite and attack defenseless prisoners, under the pretext of restoring order.

Sadistic misuse of strip-cell

Strip-cell is a practice that is used typically to search a prisoner’s property and/or cell for contraband. The problem at Red Onion is that officers place prisoners on strip-cell way beyond the mandated two hours for punitive reasons. Officers systematically put prisoners on strip-cell way beyond two hours and in many instances for days for:

  1. Covering their windows
  2. Covering their lights
  3. Kicking the door
  4. Failing to stand for court
  5. Using vulgar language
  6. Standing on the sink talking to your neighbor in the next cell
  7. Refusing to close the tray slot
  8. Being falsely accused of having contraband in your cell
  9. Staying in the shower too long


Regardless of what crime or crimes a prisoner might have committed, the objective of incarcerating criminals is to rehabilitate them, not to torture, assault and dehumanize them. This is not a diminishment of the loss, pain and heartache that the victims and victims’ families endured and/or suffered from the crimes prisoners committed.

Some people think that if prisoners are treated the way or worse than what I’ve described in this petition, it will be a deterrent against recidivism. This perception is statistically incorrect. Statistics show that the reason the recidivism rate is at an epidemic high is because prisoners were not properly rehabilitated and equipped with the right transitional skills to re-enter society once they were released.

Summary of demands

We are demanding that our rights be respected, protected and adhered to. These demands are not abstract or hyperbolized, nor are they privileges disguised as rights. Privileges are earned, and rights are guaranteed via law, policies and/or the Constitution. In every section of this petition, I have cited law, policy and the U.S. Constitution that governs what prisoners are guaranteed, that is:

  1. Recreation – via OP 861.3 policy – five days a week.
  2. Showers – via OP 861.3 policy – three days a week.
  3. Three meals a day – via OP 861.3 – seven days a week.
  4. Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment via the Eighth Amendment.
  5. Right to due process via the 14th Amendment.
  6. Right to equal protection via the 14th Amendment.
  7. Right to have criminal complaints impartially processed – via Virginia Code Title 19.2, Chapter 2, Section 20.
  8. Right to practice your religion via the First Amendment.

These rights are being and have been transgressed by prison officials and officers under a multitude of unconstitutional and unlawful pretexts. All we, the prisoners, are demanding is for these laws, policies and the U.S. Constitution to be enforced and adhered to.

We are demanding that our rights be respected, protected and adhered to.

I invite anyone to show me how any of these demands exceeds any written law, policy or amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In fact it is actually unconstitutional, unlawful and a transgression of policy for any prison officials, officer and/or elected officials to permit any of these malfeasances.

Send our brother some love and light: Kelvin A. Canada, 1050088, Red Onion State Prison, P.O. Box 1900, Pound, VA 24279. This petition was signed by 74 additional prisoners.